When it comes to calculating the cost of being healthy, there are a lot of different factors to consider. Of course the overall amount of money you’ll spend on things to keep you healthy is the most obvious one — like gym memberships and organic foods, but just focusing on this cost doesn’t factor in the money savers on lower healthcare bills and fewer medicines.
To simplify things, let’s consider the cost of eating healthy, specifically, and how much it might cost you to consume a healthy diet as opposed to one full of added sugars, fats and salt.
Read more: 15 ways to cut your grocery bill in half
Would it surprise you if we said that eating a healthy diet only costs about $1.50 more per day than eating an unhealthy one?
At least that’s the difference according to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, which was based on a comprehensive examination comparing prices of healthy foods and diet patterns to less healthy ones.
If you’ve heard people complain in the past about how much more expensive it is to purchase healthy foods compared to the unhealthy versions, you’re not alone — it just turns out the actual price differences hadn’t really been calculated before. Of course saying healthy foods cost an extra $1.50 per day is a simplistic way to look at things, since over the course of a year that adds up to approximately $550 more per year for one person — not something to sneeze at for someone on a budget.
So how can you eat healthy and still maintain a semblance of your budget? Here are some suggestions.
5 ways to save on the cost of eating healthy
1.Never shop without a list
Shopping while you’re hungry or without a specific list of items you actually need or are interested in getting is a surefire way to spend more than you want. Take a little time at home before heading out to go through what you already have and to create a list of meals for the week ahead so you aren’t throwing things willy nilly into your cart as you shop. Scour the web for tasty and low-cost recipes to try out (ChooseMyPlate.gov has some good options here), and remember that a healthy, tasty meal doesn’t have to include multiple exotic ingredients. Stick with the basics and you’ll save cash and eat right.
2. Buy in season
Stocking up on fruits and veggies is a great way to stay healthy, but it can be expensive to load up on these items, especially when they’re out of season. Stick to local fruits and vegetables that are readily available during the time of year when you’re shopping (no shipping into the stores necessary!), and search around for coupons to help you save even more. Remember, you can freeze most produce, too, so if you’re about to change seasons and you can’t imagine going without your favorite fruit or veggie, stock up while the price is right and save it in your freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Read more: This grocery store will save you up to 30%
3. Buy foods in their whole form
The simple act of buying foods in their whole form rather than prepared can actually save you a bundle. For example, shredded cheese is more expensive than buying the block and shredding it yourself.
4. Learn to like cheaper cuts of protein
Fish and meats can be expensive, but not all cuts of meat or all types of fish are equally expensive. Chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, for example, will save you some money, and bone-in, skin-on cuts are more likely to be cheaper, too. Of course another way to go is to skip the traditional meat and fish route for your protein altogether and go with other sources, like egg, tofu and bean-based meals.
5. Visit your local farmers market at the end of the day
If you’ve found that shopping at a farmers market hasn’t saved you in the past, try going again, but this time near the end of the day when it’s about to close. Vendors are more likely to cut you deals on goods they don’t want to pack up and bring back with them, so there’s a good chance you’ll find what you need for a cheaper price closer to closing time.